State lawmakers face many transportation investment challenges during their 2020 legislative sessions, including the distraction of their own reelection campaigns. Four states do not have regular sessions in 2020, and six others meet for less than two months.
Several states that began transportation investment campaigns in 2019 are expected to continue the effort in 2020, including:
• Connecticut: Gov. Ned Lamont (D) Nov. 7 proposed a 10-year, $21 billion transportation investment plan based primarily on tolling. The state is grappling with $25 billion bonded debt and facing the possibility of being unable to meet its federal match by 2022. Gov. Lamont and legislative leaders have agreed to a vote in January 2020.
• Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker (R) introduced an $18 billion bond to fund transportation projects over the next five years. State House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D) has said he plans to address transportation revenue needs in the 2020 session.
• Colorado: A bond issue is expected to be placed on the 2020 ballot in the wake of three transportation investment referendum defeats in two years.
New leadership in three states could also create new opportunities.
• Virginia: New Democratic control of the state House and Senate may create opportunities to work with Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for increased transportation investment. State Transportation Secretary Valentine said Northam intends to include transportation funding plans in his 2020 agenda. Odd-number year state-level elections in Virginia means there will not be any 2020 campaigning or turnover in Richmond, the capital.
• Kentucky: As a candidate, Gov.-elect Andy Beshear (D) released an infrastructure plan in August 2019 that identified several key projects, including the I-69 bridge. Already one of the nation’s busiest freight corridors, Kentucky projects such commercial traffic will increase by two thirds by 2045. The state is facing a backlog of more than $1 billion in road projects, plus at least 1,000 bridges that need to be repaired or replaced. State lawmakers have warned new revenue is needed over the next two years to preserve federal transportation funding.
• Mississippi: Lt. Gov.-elect Delbert Hosemann (R) during his campaign expressed interest in permitting counties to create a local gas tax with a date-certain expiration to address transportation investment shortfalls. Challenges may arise as Gov.-elect Tate Reeves (R) has consistently stated his opposition to a gas tax increase.
While we expect less legislative action in 2020, presidential election years tend to generate numerous state and local ballot measures for voter consideration.
• One measure already on the ballot is a half-cent sales tax increase renewal in Arkansas. This measure, originally approved by voters 58-42 in 2012, could annually generate $205 million for state highways and $44 million for localities.
• Lawmakers in Missouri have begun pre-filing several initiatives to increase transportation investment in 2020, which could be placed on the ballot with legislative approval. The state has struggled to get enough support at the ballot in recent years, a significant challenge due to a constitutional law requiring voter approval on any significant tax or fee increase.
Additionally, Louisiana, Georgia, and other states are already preparing for action beyond 2020.